In this article, I’m going to walk you through my entire 9 step SEO strategy. Step by step. In fact, this is the exact strategy that I used to rank on the first page of Google for competitive key words. Like on-page SEO, article SEO, keyword research tools, and thousands of others.
Now I should warn you. This article isn’t going to be a bunch of high level fluff. Instead, everything I’m about to show you is going to be super tactical and actionable. Keep learning let’s face it.
SEO can be hard, and it’s even harder when you read the same advice over and over again. You know the stuff I’m talking about.
- Optimize your title tags.
- Share your content on social media.
- Publish great content.
And hey, this advice isn’t completely useless but it’s not going to rocket your site to the top of Google. Why? Because everyone with a website is following the exact same advice. So to rank above them, you need to do something completely different. This is exactly what I’m going to walk you through right now.
SEO Strategy #1 Find An Opportunity Keyword
Starting with step number one, find an opportunity keyword. An opportunity keyword is like a regular keyword but better. I’ll explain. You probably noticed that Google’s first page is packed with more stuff than ever before.
For example, take a look at the first page for this keyword. You’ve got a bunch of ads above the fold, a featured snippet, a questions box, and news results, which is exactly why now I focus almost 100% on opportunity keywords.
What are opportunity keywords?
Opportunity keywords are keywords with a high organic click-through-rate. In other words, they’re terms that don’t have a bunch of stuff on the first page that distracts people from the organic results.
Let’s look at an example. A while ago, I created a page on my site optimized around the keyword SEO checklist. And as it turns out, SEO checklist is an opportunity keyword. Yep, there are a few ads on the page, but that’s not really a big deal. It’s actually in a way a good thing, because it shows that people are bidding on that keyword in Google ads.
Other than that the first page is pretty clean which means the focus is on the organic results. Nice. Bottom line, look at the search results before picking a keyword. If it’s packed with stuff, consider going for an opportunity keyword that’s going to get you more clicks.
SEO Strategy #2 Check out the Content Competition
With that, let’s move on to step number two. Check out the content competition. Okay, so you’ve found an opportunity keyword. What’s next? Well, most people whip open Word Press and start writing. But that’s actually a huge mistake.
In fact, that’s what I used to do back in the day. I’d write something that I think would rank in Google. Today, I know better. Today, I analyze the first page results to see what’s already working. In other words, my content competition. And once I figure out the type of content that Google wants to see for that keyword, then I start creating content. For example, look at the first page results for the keyword paleo desserts.
As you can see, the results are lists of dessert recipes. So if you wanted to write for that keyword you wouldn’t want to write a blog post like what makes a dessert paleo or not. Instead, you’d want a post that lists out a bunch of recipes. How about another example. One of my most important keywords is actually keyword research.
And back in the day when I looked at the content that was ranking for that term, I noticed that they didn’t list out tips or strategies for finding keywords. Instead, they were all huge guides. So I decided to create a guide that covered pretty much everything there is to know about keyword research, which helped me crack the top three for this super competitive term.
SEO Strategy #3 Create Content that’s Different or Better
With that, it’s time for our third step. Create content that’s different or better. When it comes to creating content for SEO, you have two main options.
Option #1 you can create something different.
Option #2 you can create something better.
I’ll explain. Most of the time you want to publish something that’s just way better than what is already out there. But sometimes it makes more sense to create something completely unique. For example, a few months ago I found the opportunity keyword mobile SEO, and when I looked at the content competition, I noticed that most of the results were list posts like nine ways to optimize your site for mobile.
Now I could’ve created a giant list post like 150 ways to mobile optimize your site, but that wouldn’t make any sense. In this case it made more sense to create something different. So that’s what I did. I spent two weeks writing this ultimate guide to mobile optimization. And because my content was completely different than what was already out there, it really stood out, which led to tons of shares on social media, Backlinks and Google rankings.
Like I mentioned earlier, you can also just create something that’s straight up better than what’s already out there. For example, a while back I wanted to rank for the keyword SEO tools. And when I looked at the content that was already ranking I noticed that most of them were lists of about 20 to 30 tools.
Now I could’ve created my own list of 20 of the best SEO tools, but I know that that would just blend in. So I decided to create something way better. Specifically I published this complete list of SEO tools. Over 180 in all. It took about six weeks to test all these tools. It was kind of insane.
But at the end of the day, that post did really well. In fact, it now ranks in the top three for my main keyword SEO tools.
SEO Strategy #4 Add your Hook
This leads us to step number four. Add your hook. This is an advanced SEO strategy so if you’re new to SEO, you might want to skip this step. With that out of the way, here’s how it works. You probably already know that in general, pages with the most Backlinks rank highest in Google.
But how do you get people to link to you? Here’s a simple two-step process.
Step #1 Figure out why people link to content in your industry, (AKA the Hook).
Step #2, Include that hook in your content.
For example, last year I noticed that more and more marketing blogs were publishing content about voice search, and when I read that content I noticed something super interesting. When people wrote about voice search, they almost always cited stats and data, and when they mentioned a stat, they linked to the source.
So I created a post about voice search that was packed with bite sized steps. So, how did it go? According to Ahrefs, my post has been linked to thousands of times. And if you look at those individual links, most of them reference a specific step from my post. Now data is one type of hook that you can use. Here are three others that are working really well right now.
Think about it, what do blogs and news sites love to cover? New stuff. And when you create something new, you’ve got yourself a hook. For example a few years ago I created a new strategy called Guest graphics. Because Guest graphics was a new approach that no one had heard before. My past that first talked about the strategy racked up a ton of links.
This is actually one of my favorite hooks. Why? Because it’s really straight forward. In fact, when you publish a massive guide, your guide itself is the hook. Let’s take a look at a real life example.
A few years ago, I published this definitive guide to Backlinks. Now, in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive guide to Backlinks out there. In fact, the fact that my post covers everything there is to know about that topic is the hook.
For example, once in a while a blogger will mention the concept of Backlinks in their post. But they’re not going to dive deep into a full explanation right in the middle of their post. So they link to my guide as a way for their readers to learn more.
Case Study Results
Our last hook is to include results from case studies in your content. In my experience, case studies are one of the easiest hooks that you can use. And all you need to do is feature one result in your case study. This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.
For example, a few years ago I published this case study post on my blog. And this case study featured a ton of results. Some were about traffic, some were about social shares, and other stats were related to email subscribers.
And all these stats meant that my case study lacked that single hook that would make someone want to link to it. And that’s one of the reasons that my post struggled to get links. On the bright side, I did learn a valuable lesson from that post.
If you want people to link to your case study you need to feature one specific result. So when I published this case study about a year later, I made sure to really zero in on one specific result. A 785% increase in conversion rate. And because that post has a single hook, it gets linked to all the time.
SEO Strategy #5 Optimize your sites on-page SEO
And now it’s time for step number five. Optimize your sites on-page SEO. There’s a lot that goes into optimizing your content for SEO. So instead of covering every single SEO technique on the planet. I’m going to focus on two strategies that are working really well right now.
Use Short URLs
The first strategy is to use short URLs. When my team and I analyzed a million Google results, we found a clear correlation between short URLs and higher Google rankings.
So if you’re URLs tend to be super long, cut them down so they’re nice and short. Now to be clear, I don’t recommend going back and changing your existing URLs because that can do more harm than good. Instead, just make your new URLs short and sweet. For example, my URLs are usually just my keyword or my main keyword plus a word before or after it.
Next Step we have internal linking. Yep, internal links still work, but you have to do it right. Specifically you want to link from high authority pages on your site to pages that you want to rank.
Those internal links will send authority to the pages that you want to rank, which can give them a nice rankings boost. For example, last year I published this post on my site and because the post was brand new it had absolutely zero authority. So I went over to this post from my site that lots of people had already linked to and added an internal link to my new post. That’s all there is to it.
SEO Strategy #6 The skyscraper technique 2.0
Now you might’ve already heard of the skyscraper technique. A content marketing and SEO approach that went viral a few years ago. Now the original skyscraper technique is pretty cool but it doesn’t cover something that’s super important for ranking in Google today.
Search intent is what a Google searcher is looking for when they perform a search. And the better your content matches their intent the higher you’ll rank. Let’s look at how this works with a quick example.
When I first started my blog I wrote this post about getting more traffic, and in general this post did pretty well in terms of social shares and comments. But no matter what I did, it wouldn’t rank for any keyword including my main keyword increase website traffic.
And one day it hit me. My page didn’t match the search intent for that keyword. I’ll explain. Most of the content on Google’s first page for increase website traffic was bite sized traffic tips and strategies.
In other words, they were list posts. My content, it was a high level strategy post. People that searched for my keyword didn’t want a high level four step process; they wanted a list of bite sized strategies.
So I decided to rewrite my content from scratch. Specifically I rewrote my content to better match search intent. So I turned this high level process into a 27 point list post. And this single change boosted that page’s organic traffic by 70.4%. Nice.
SEO Strategy #7 Content Design
In my experience, your content’s design can make or break your SEO. Imagine that you just wrote the best post ever written, but it looks like this. Well no one in their right mind is going to link to that page and Google searchers that see an ugly page like that, they’re going to bounce back to the search results.
That’s why I personally spend a lot of time, money and energy on content design. I’ve already mentioned a few of my definitive guides in this article. In my opinion, these custom guides look really nice and they do really well.
But each guide is custom designed and custom coded, which makes them really expensive to make. So if you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on every single guide that you publish, no worries. Here are three simple ways that you can make your content look awesome.
- We have images, screenshots and pictures: I use a ton of screenshots and images in every post. For example, this single post has over 75 images.
- Next, you can make your content look nicer with blog post banners: Post banners are those custom-made images that go at the top of your post. Now sometimes I use a 220 by 220 pixel image in my intro and sometimes I go with a giant banner.
- Finally, we have charts and visuals: Not only do charts and visuals look really cool, but they help people understand complicated stuff from your post. And they don’t need to be super fancy or expensive to work.
For example, in this article I explain how every version of your site should redirect to the same URL. Now its kind a hard to picture this idea in your head only with text. So I hired a graphic designer to make this simple visual.
So you just published an awesome piece of content on your site. A piece of content that has a hook and it’s also optimized for search intent. So what’s next? It’s time to build links to that page.
Here’s how. First, use something called the content road show. This strategy is all about getting your content in front of the right people. Who are the right people? People that run blogs in your industry.
With that, here’s exactly how the content road show works. A few years ago, I wrote a case study about the skyscraper technique, and to get the word out, I found people that recently shared content on that topic on Twitter.
And I sent each of these people a personalized version of this outreach script. Notice how I’m not being a pushy jerk face, I’m just offering to send them a link to my post. And I sent this simple email to anyone that replied to my first message.
And this simple technique landed me a ton of social shares from authority bloggers. Next you want to use broken link building. This strategy is pretty simple.
Broken Link Building
First, find a broken link on someone’s website, and then pitch your content as a replacement for the dead link. For example, a while back I wanted to build links to this giant list of SEO tools that I published on my site. So I found broken links on marketing blogs and sent the people that ran those blogs a simple outreach email.
And because I helped the person out before I even asked for anything, they were happy to add my link. Now before I end this article, it’s time for a quick bonus strategy.
SEO Strategy #9 Encourage comments and community
A few years ago, a Google employee made waves when he said that comments can help your Google ranking. Personally, I think he meant that comments and community can indirectly help your rankings.
For example, people that feel like they’re part of your site’s community are going to be more likely to share and link to your stuff. Either way, I found a clear correlation between comments and rankings.
how do you get more people to leave comments?
One thing that’s really helped me is to reply to every comment that I get. I see lots of people complaining that no one comments on their blog posts. But when I do look at their blog, they don’t even bother to reply to the few comments that come in. (sighing) the truth is if you want to build a community on your site, you gotta reply to comments.
In fact, I just did the math on this. Last I checked, we have about 25000 comments on the QuickStartApps blog. And about half of those are me replying to people, and I have zero regrets about replying to so many comments. Why?
Well these replies show that I care about their thoughts and comments. This turns random people into loyal members of the Backlinko community. So that’s it for my eight step SEO strategy.
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Now I want to turn it over to you. Which strategy from today’s article are you going to use first?
Are you going to try broken link building? Or maybe you’re ready to start replying to comments. Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.